Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 60.djvu/305

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Wesley
Wesley
299

of a tutor, and ‘exceedingly dreaded entering into holy orders.’ This dread was partly due to introspective views of religion derived from mystical writers, whose influence he never entirely shook off. He graduated M.A. on 12 March 1732–3. His copy of Fell's ‘Life’ of Hammond, with the autograph date 1734, and the motto ‘Longe Sequar,’ has been preserved (Wakeley, Anecdotes, 1870, p. 379). In face of the opposition of his brother Samuel, who thought him unfit for the work, he joined John in the mission to Georgia, going as secretary to James Edward Oglethorpe [q. v.], the governor. On the advice of John Burton (1696–1771) [q. v.], he was ordained deacon by John Potter (1674?–1747) [q. v.], then bishop of Oxford, and priest by Edmund Gibson [q. v.], bishop of London, in October 1735, just before starting.

Leaving his brother at Savannah, Wesley reached (9 March 1736) Frederica, St. Simon's Island, Oglethorpe's residence. From this date his ‘Journal’ becomes available. He was to minister to the colonists and convert the Indians. His stay was not long; his strictness made him enemies in a lax community; by his refusal to recognise lay-baptism, he prejudiced his efforts for moral reform; he did not get on with Oglethorpe, and even welcomed ‘a friendly fever.’ On 13 May he left for secretarial duties at Savannah. He was anxious to resign his post. Taking despatches from Oglethorpe to the Georgia trustees and the board of trade, he left Savannah on 26 July in very unfit health for a stormy voyage in an unseaworthy vessel. After delays at Charlestown and Boston, he landed at Deal on 3 Dec. 1736. He did not resign the secretaryship till 3 April 1738, when the state of his health and his brother's advice (that he should remain at Oxford) led him to give up the idea of the Georgia mission. He had previously made vain efforts to induce the ecclesiastical authorities to recognise Moravian co-operation. His intercourse with Zinzendorf began on 19 Jan. 1737. He was able to aid Zinzendorf, through his acquaintance with Bishop Potter.

By Potter's advice, he joined (26 Aug. 1737) the Oxford deputation with an address to the throne at Hampton Court. Shortly after, he consulted William Law [q. v.] on religious matters, without gaining satisfaction. In February 1738 he came under the influence of Peter Böhler, who learned English from him, during a visit at Oxford. Wesley does not seem to have learned German. The perusal of Luther on Galatians, which he met with in May, gave clearness to his religious ideas. Whit-Sunday (21 May 1738) he fixes as the date of his conversion; a similar experience reached his brother John on the following Wednesday. Full of new zeal, he resumed preaching on 2 July. On 24 July he became unlicensed curate to George Stonehouse of St. Mary's, Islington; he read daily prayers, preached constantly in London churches, visited Newgate, and held private meetings for exposition and devotion. On 20 Oct. he first preached without notes. In interviews with Gibson, bishop of London, he defended himself against charges of irregularity; he annoyed Gibson by giving him formal notice (14 Nov.) of his intention to rebaptise a woman who had received baptism from a dissenter. The Islington churchwardens, disliking his ministrations, questioned the legality of his position, and kept him forcibly from the pulpit. Stonehouse was obliged to end the engagement in May 1739. His frequent preaching for Henry Piers, vicar of Bexley, Kent, brought a summons to Lambeth and a censure (19 June) from Archbishop Potter. On 1 July he preached on justification before the university of Oxford. A walk through a field, to preach on Kennington Common, brought an action for trespass, which cost him (29 July) nearly 20l.

He entered upon the itinerant ministry on 16 Aug. 1739, riding to the west of England. Taking his brother's place at Bristol, he made this his headquarters, entering on his ministry at Weavers' Hall on 31 Aug. For the next seventeen years he pursued his evangelistic journeys, finding hearers up and down England and Wales, from the ‘keelmen’ of Newcastle-on-Tyne to the ‘tinners’ of Cornwall. His good sense appears in his remarks (1743) on the convulsive paroxysms which began in 1739; some were counterfeit, others could be controlled, the remainder he could not accept as divine signs. On two occasions he visited Ireland (9 Sept. 1747–20 March 1748, and 13 Aug.–8 Oct. 1748). He had to endure much rough usage, yet at Kinsale, he reports (8 Sept. 1748), ‘the presbyterians say I am a presbyterian; the churchgoers that I am a minister of theirs; and the catholics are sure I am a good catholic in my heart.’ Except that he did not again cross to Ireland, his marriage (1749) made little change in his plans; his wife accompanied his journeys, riding behind him on a pillion. Her fine voice led the singing at his religious meetings. By a strong measure he frustrated his brother's unwise matrimonial project of the same year. Though he had encouraged lay preaching, and had